A not-so emergency room visit

The bench with one less splinter

One of the reasons we created this blog was to make sure that Americans who were planning a permanent move to France could find details that didn’t appear to be readily available five years ago when we started the investigative process. There seemed to have been ample information for our English-speaking cousins, the British, but some of that didn’t apply because they were part of the European Union so it resembled in some ways moving from one US state to another. Because of Brexit, the dealings with the government that have always been a requirement for us including visas, residence cards, applying for national health insurance, and getting a French driver’s license are now equally important to Her Majesty’s subjects. Today’s health topic, that unexpectedly follows the medical discussion from our most recent blog post could be of use to anyone wondering about our experience with urgent medical care.

We have an old hand-hewn wooden bench that in addition to rough charm has some equally rough splinters, one of which ended up jammed under one of my fingernails. Even handy Bill couldn’t retrieve the ½ inch (1.25 cm) intruder that was more of a nuisance than an urgence so we made an appointment to see our family doctor. With the warning of “tell me if this hurts” he too tried in vain and soon said that I would have to go to the hospital. That was not what I wanted to hear, especially in light of the coronavirus situation, but he said that I had no other option. Just walk in and wait your turn; no appointments possible.

Emergency room entrance sign

Since we now had the choice of when to take care of the problem, I looked at the hospital on Google maps to see that it started getting busy daily at 9:00 AM so we walked over there on a Tuesday morning at 8:45. At the reception desk I was asked for my Carte Vitale (national health insurance ID card) and with that I handed in something else that we’ve found to be invaluable: a calling card. It lists our names, address, phone number and email addresses. With that there is no concern about misspellings or misunderstandings due to accents or language challenges.

Once that information was entered, Bill was directed to the family waiting room while I was sent through locked doors to a different area where I was delighted to find only one other patient. Yes, being able to choose what I hoped would not be a busy time paid off. Five minutes later I was escorted to an exam room where the nurse first doused my finger with a clear liquid to see if an infection had set in and then took a drop of blood to determine if my tetanus vaccination was still valid. Lastly she sprayed my finger with Lidocaine and left me there to wait for its numbing properties to take effect.

About 20 minutes later the doctor came in, assessed the situation, and said that he would first attempt to remove the splinter with hemostat forceps. The only word he said in English was “pain” but luckily before I had time to think about that, the sprinter was out. He then escorted me out to the reception desk where he handed me a printed recap of the services carried out and sent me out the door.

And what was our out-of-pocket expense for all of this? 15 euros. The cost to visit the emergency room was 25€ while the services of the doctor and nurse were 48€ for a total of 73€. Universal health care that ensures that every resident in France is covered by health insurance paid for all but 15€. We are indeed grateful to be living here.

7 thoughts on “A not-so emergency room visit

  1. The only English word was pain? Are you sure he wasn’t telling you to put a bread poultice on it? Glad you got it out. I’ve had slivers under my fingernail. It hurts. You’re obviously a lot tougher than me. Take care guys.

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  2. Ha-ha, Mike! I would have preferred the “pain” as in a nice crusty baguette but this wasn’t too bad.


    1. We also have a mutuelle for hospitalizations but chose to pay for the small incidentals as they occur as studies have shown that for our age and being retired that the cost would be equal to prepaying with a mutuelle or paying out of pocket as needed.

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